Music for All’s Director of Camps, Jeff Young, writes about the impact summer camps have on students for the 2022 Music for All Winter Newsletter.
Music is in my blood. From an early age I saw and heard my dad practicing his trombone on a regular basis even though he was a physician and did not play regularly in an ensemble. I started playing the trumpet in 5th grade and had an exceptional private teacher as well as a fantastic middle school band director. Mr. Hilgeman and Mr. Fisher both extended my knowledge and passion for band and by the time I was in high school I was hooked – so much so that I have devoted a huge part of my life to passing that love of music on to others.
I started teaching the Bands of America Summer Symposium 15 years ago and it was immediately clear to me what a special summer camp it was. The tagline “Positively Life-Changing Experience” is true in so many ways and I have taught the camp every year since. Many players return much stronger on their instruments by being around others who are achieving at a high level. They see a level of performance in others they may have never considered. A summer camp like this one can make a huge impact in a young person’s life and here are some reasons why.
Camp is an opportunity to develop your unique skills: If you are thinking about attending a summer camp, you have likely already decided to be in band in some way. Camp allows you to focus on getting better at your skills without the distractions of classes, work, chores, etc. It is a place where you can really focus on that one thing that makes you special.
Camp is a place where there are no labels: We are all students (and teachers) at music camp doing what we love! It is a huge self-esteem booster to live for a week at a place where other people have similar passions to our own.
Camp encourages a deep dive into new skills: Your band or color guard at home has a certain way of doing things. Camp shows us all that there are different ways of doing things and sometimes these ways are better! The fundamentals you learn at camp are a deep dive into skills acquisition and improvement.
Camp leads to a new type of friendship: At camp, it is likely that you will room with someone you have never met from a place you have never been. Your division of camp, your section, your squad, your lunch friends, your teachers will all be new and you will work with them toward a common goal. The teamwork you experience in a short amount of time will lead to strong friendships which can live on long after camp!
Camp is mentally stimulating and active: When you are at summer camp, you are constantly active. Some people say that they are even “wiped out” at the end of the week! Camp is physically strenuous, intellectually stimulating, exciting, and faced-paced. You forget about your phone and computer and use your whole body and all your senses. A sense of purpose and a drive to participate moves you through the week and it is over before you blink. Camp reinforces independence and empowerment. Although parents are sometimes sad and anxious about dropping their child off at camp, the student is often ecstatic to have independence for a week. They are empowered to eat what they want, choose friends, go to bed when they are tired, and this increases confidence and self-esteem. When you can make choices you have a greater understanding of how those choices affect others working toward a common goal.
Camp allows for confidence to be reinforced by success: Success at camp is measured during a short time frame. Often, success at home is measured over months. Becoming a better leader, performing alongside a drum corps for a large camp audience, executing a color guard routine… these successes are fulfilled quickly at camp and have a lasting impact.
Camp leads to creativity free of judgment: At the Summer Symposium students will be around other students from a wide variety of socioeconomic, racial, and personal identities. In addition, students represent a spectrum of band programs with different levels of success and achievement. No matter what your home program’s name or reputation is… you are all part of the Summer Symposium for that week working together, learning from each other, and respecting differences.
Camp builds resilience: Campers will overcome homesickness, physical limitations, tiredness, frustration, and other challenges by learning to be resilient. This new resilience can push the boundaries of what they thought was previously impossible.
Camp instills appreciation and gratitude: Being at camp and being given the opportunity to participate instills a great degree of gratitude in young people. You realize how much you are supported financially, you feel thankful for how much effort is put into keeping you fed, healthy, and safe. You see your parents in the audience at the end of the week performances. You are emotionally raw and full of excitement about what you experienced and accomplished and you can’t wait to share that with your friends and band mates at home.
Camp is safe: The Summer Symposium has a dedicated group of adults (Administration, Medical Personnel, Faculty, and SWAGs) that work to make sure that students are safe and healthy throughout the week. In addition, we will follow nationally-recognized current bestpractices regarding COVID-19 protocols from the AAP, ACA, and CDC.
Camp is fun! Doing band at home can sometimes feel like work or maybe a little bit stale. New experiences like camp can invigorate you. And at camp, you experience nightly concerts from national acts, leadership sessions, dorm life, and a taste of what college life is all about.
Directors need camp too! All the benefits of camp we just talked about are good for directors as well. Whether you are a color guard instructor, percussion instructor, marching & movement instructor, high school band director, middle school band director, or college student, you can level-up your teaching in one week. Learn from the best teachers in the country. Make connections by networking, attending sessions, practicing teaching techniques, and hanging out with the faculty at evening socials. Feel rejuvenated and reinvigorated and have some much-needed fun!